Saxophonist Bruce Williams Doesn’t Want to be the Man

by Elizabeth Hoover    /  December 3, 2010  / No comments

Musicians of the 2010 Jazz Poetry Concert

Video editing and production by Glen Wood

“None of us are trying to say, ‘We’re the man,’” said Bruce Williams by way of describing the dynamic of Olive Lake’s 17-piece band, which accompanied the writers at City of Asylum/Pittsburgh’s 2010 Jazz Poetry Concert. Williams is no stranger to ensembles, and he has played with Wynton Marsalis’ Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra and the Count Basie Orchestra.

But this young alto saxophonist has proved he also can step out and “be the man” in his forceful and innovative solos. Especially impressive are his fluid improvisations. (You can watch him play a snippet of one at the end of this video.) He has also shown himself to be a thoughtful and dynamic composer on his albums “More to Go,” “Brotherhood,” and “Altocity.” In this video, he discusses the poetic quality of classical jazz, a quality that appears in the lyric phrasing of his own compositions.

A native of Washington, D.C., he received a full scholarship to study music at the University of the District Columbia and continued his studies at William Paterson College in Wayne, New Jersey. In addition to playing the saxophone, he is also trumpeter, drummer, pianist, and producer.  His performances with groups including the Hip Hop Jazz Sextet, the Roy Hargrove Quintet, and the Lionel Hampton orchestra have caught the attention of older musicians.  Tenor saxophonist and jazz innovator Branford Marsalis praised Williams as “a part of the next wave of young jazz prodigies exhibiting soul and virtuosity.”

His graceful playing, relaxed solos, and encyclopedic knowledge of classical jazz have earned him the nickname Blow Daddy.

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About the Author

Elizabeth Hoover earned her MFA in Creative Writing from Indiana University, where she received a Project on African Expressive Traditions grant and the Won-Joon Yon Scholarship for Racial Tolerance. She has written for American Heritage, Life, and Poets and Writers. Her criticism has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Philadelphia Inquirer, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. She has published poetry in The Adirondack Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, and the Atlanta Review. Recently, New Letters nominated her for a Pushcart Prize. Hoover is a former associate editor at Sampsonia Way.

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